Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 43: Siamo arrivati a Roma!

There is only one point to today – getting through the 21 kilometres to arrive at the end. This is our thirteenth day in a row and we are tired. The guide offers up a train option to avoid the road slogs today, but we shall walk.

We leave early for us: 7:55 am. We have a slog of 6.5 kms along the dreaded via Cassia. But this morning is safe. It isn’t pleasant but it is safe. Need to do some crisscrossing but there is footpath on one side or the other. It is Sunday morning so maybe the traffic is even a bit quieter. Lots of MAMLs out and about. And so much rubbish and dog shit.

We have a few kms through parkland on a new path opened in the past couple of years to get pellegrini off the worst of the roads for a bit. It is appreciated.

A steep climb up from the parkland into suburbs. It can be hard to see the markers with so much happening visually and we rely a lot on the SloWays app today.

Back to parkland and repeated ups and downs on rocky, uneven surface. It is much harder work than I wanted today. Every now and then we get a bit of a view over Roma, but are kept waiting for the one we want.

Then finally…………

……the end is in sight.

Through a bit more of the park, passing a whole lot of rubbish everywhere and dog shit, then down the switchbacks on the paved but uneven rocky path, we reach the gate that we should exit by – it is locked. One more switchback and we find another gate, thankfully open. It might have been a very ugly scene if that too was locked, coz we weren’t going to want to climb back up the hill to find another way out.

More slog along footpath…..

And eventually, we arrive.

And we have a good sit down.

We have followed these two people for such a very long way….

…it has no doubt had a lasting effect on us …….

It’s Sunday arvo now and the offices to get our piece of paper are closed. I have a very comfy bed booked (at a bargain basement price) just a couple of blocks away. Late lunch / very early dinner then gelati, then a very good lie down.


Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 42: Campagnano di Roma to La Storta.

Roma is so very close now. This day brings us to the periphery. But first we have a lot of steep up and down to deal with. It is a day that is surprisingly green.

In spite of whatever aches and pains we arrive at our destination with each day, the next morning we generally feel much better. A good hot shower most days on arrival helps. I have spent so much time in the shower I hope Italy doesn’t have any water shortages.

We don’t manage early starts though. Always seem to take so long to get going. Usually on our way about 9 am. This morning we are delayed by packing troubles. I pack, un pack, repack but can’t get it right. By the fourth time it is feeling better. How can it be that most days it seems very comfortable, fits well. But some days is so wrong.

It is pretty grey and overcast but quite mild. Mid teens expected maximum.

Out of the town and straight into the first steep climb. Initially we pass through country estates. DC makes some doggy friends. The climbs today are ok. We are much stronger and fitter now. Those steep descents though are going to hurt every single time. .

Today is mostly along country roads, through woods and pretty good tracks. At one park we walk through, we know there must be horses nearby – we see the evidence before the horses. In the words of the little girl: “ma, tutte le cache!”

Towards the end of the walk today we pass through an archeological park. It follows edges of fields and there are boards that document the findings, especially Etruscan burial sites. The last part of the day is of course up. Steep up.

Tonight I have booked a room at a hotel run by nuns in their convent.

So here we are. A pair of atheists who have walked 1000 kms along a Catholic pilgrimage. Staying in a convent. And tomorrow we walk to Roma. Only about 21 kms to go.


Stay: Casa Nostra Signora.

Eat: La Fattoria di Clotilde.

A dopo.

Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 41: Sutri to Campagnano di Roma

We arrive at the amphitheatre for opening. While we don’t have time to visit all the other archeological sights we are eager to see this before being on our way. The gate is open but the ticket seller hasn’t yet arrived. The gate keeper takes our money and lets us in, then brings our tickets to us once available – special treatment i think.

There are a few routes out of Sutri. We opt for shorter though not the best. It involves road walking, including a short section on the via Cassia without path. We have enough shoulder and as always take considerable care. Once off the via Cassia there is some more road to get past but it soon quietens down and we are back amongst the hazelnuts.

Hazelnuts then give way to golf : Golf Nazionale. This includes the national golf training centre.

We make pretty good time early on and arrive at Monterosi for a break. After crossing the via Cassia by overpass (it is now an 8 lane highway) we are then on rural roads for the rest of the day.

There are three main sounds for the day: lots of birds, the really lovely jingle of sheep bells, and barking dogs. So many barking dogs today, including the sheep dog who gets under the fence to make sure his warnings to us are clear.

There are a lot of dogs in Italy. Some are well behaved, friendly, quiet. So, so many are loud, barking and aggressive as you pass a property. On the other hand, we have seen a lot of dogs living in such terrible conditions; so many dogs in cages.

We pass the Monte Gelato park and falls. A really beautiful spot, we have time for a minor diversion off track.

Our target for today is up on a hilltop. We don’t get a view of it though until we just about reach the base of the climb. We have slowed as the day gets on and sunset is approaching (4:45 pm nowadays).

Through the town to our accommodation for the night. DC has an Achilles’ tendon and left foot that are a bit sore today. We have done 24 kms with some ups and downs and tomorrow will be big day with a lot more hills. Decide to rest for the remainder of the evening. Ice, a massage of his stiff feet and walking no further than down a flight of stairs for dinner, has him feeling a lot better a few hours later.

Stay and Eat: Hotel Ristorante Benigni

Only two more days.

Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 40: Vetralla to Sutri.

A couple of longer days ahead but we are both feeling reasonably good today. A day dedicated to the hazelnut.

Generally easy walking for the 24 km day.

It takes a little while to clear the urban landscape but then we are out in woods of towering autumn trees. The main presence today though is the hazelnut tree. Mile after mile of fields that we walk beside and through.

Including a field of trees with towering ruins.

Poor DC. He is torn between the awe and the terror of so many allergy-inducing hazelnuts. We even sat in a field of hazelnut trees for our lunch. For most of the day there was no getting away from them.

We pass below Capranica, built up on a ridge.

The last section of the route today is a lovely trail beside a creek through a ravine. We kick our way through autumn leaves up to our ankles, crisscross the creek on log bridges, and enjoy the quiet.

We rush on to get to Sutri, hoping to fit in a visit to the ancient Roman amphitheatre. But today it closed at two. We can peak through the gate and plan a visit at opening time tomorrow.

We love a Roman amphitheatre, and this one wasn’t built up, but was dug out of the rock.

On the final pathway to the amphitheatre we follow a trail past Etruscan caves and niches, necropoli and paths cut out of the limestone.

After arrival at our B&B for the night (we ran into the owner outside the amphitheatre while he walked his dog) we wandered the town for a while then settled into a bar and DC has the cards. He has spent a fair bit of time today trying to think through my strategies and plan his own. Unfortunately for him, in spite of a big early lead tonight, Richo again rules. It is now Richo 6, DC 1.

Stay: Nerone’s B&B

Eat: Il Vescovado

3 more days.

Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 39: Viterbo to Vetralla.

Today is all about the olive.

And Etruscan paths.

And ……..

an actual 100 kms to go.

Before leaving our B&B in the medieval quarter we get a tour of the ground floor and ancient cellars and a bit of a history lesson. It has been a lovely though brief stay in this restored medieval home and a very interesting start to the day.

We find our way back through the medieval streets and past the Popes’ Palace to head out of Viterbo. The signs seem to indicate many different directions out of town. Maybe the route has changed. We follow SloWays initially to make sure we are heading in the right direction. Once outside the walls of the town there are then two possible routes. The one on our map that follows Etruscan paths, and an “alternative” route. We want the Etruscan paths but soon realise that by following the signs from the McDonalds (the right hand road at the fork) we are being sent on the alternative route. Backtrack and take the road on the left.

The Etruscan paths have been dug out of the volcanic rock. We hypothesise different reasons they may have had for taking on such a task.

There are also a lot caves dug out along the way. Some now used for rubbish disposal. We passed a sign from, i think, an irate local that seemed to say something about throwing the bastardo in instead.

We pass the actual ‘100 kms to go’ at some point today. There is no acknowledgement of when this actually occurs. I imagine Montefiascone would object. DC does some calculations of distance and decides on a spot to mark the occasion. It isn’t a particularly fabulous spot in itself: the autostrada on one side with rubbish and tyres strewn about, an empty field on the other.

But then the olives trees. Some being pruned and the nets packed up; some having the olives shaken from their branches to be caught in the nets below; some weighed down still with olives. The rattle of the vibrating tools they use to shake the olives free echoes round the hills most of the day.

Today is only 16 kms but I am weary and slow. Breathing feels crappy, the pack won’t seem to sit right and too many bits hurt. When we arrive at our hotel we stay there till time to go in search of dinner.

Stay: Albergo da Benedetta.

Eat: Trattoria la Lanterna (this place was packed)

Pasta with salad and grilled veggies. I am really liking artichoke. Don’t think I have ever had much prior to this trip.

4 more days. About 90 kms to go.


Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 38: Montefiascone to Viterbo.

It is cloudy and cool today – max predicted 12 deg. We have a good view from the rooftop terrace of our hotel, but we can see it is also a bit hazy.

The signs all say 100 km to Rome and St Peters. Our stamp says the same thing. Fact: it is still almost 125 kms to walk. Don’t get excited yet!

We have time this morning to head to the fortress for opening time for a little look. Inside there isn’t as much to see as the intact outside would suggest. There is a museum about architecture of the region including a lot of information about the building of the dome in Florence. It is however all in Italian and we don’t have the time for me to try to decipher it.

Views from the park out across the lake are fabulous.

We leave the town via a steep downhill path. Today is mostly on good track, dirt roads and…….

….. long stretches of Roman road. This is the original via Cassia. Much more calming to walk on than the current via Cassia.

Once down from Montefiascone, apart from one small hill, today’s route is pretty flat and easy. Mostly farmland. The main passers by are cyclists – lycra clad. This route is a popular cycling trail, even on a Tuesday. While there are lots of bikes there are thankfully few cars as they throw up a lot of dust as they pass.

After passing an industrial area we arrive at an entrance gate to the old city of Viterbo by 2pm.

Viterbo has ancient Etruscan origins, has been home to popes and has an amazingly preserved medieval quarter. It is here we find a B&B for the night. The city was heavily bombed in WW2 but has reconstructed the walls, gates and towers that circle the older part of the town. We wander the medieval area, visit the small museum and the Popes’ Palace and check out some of the walls. People are busy at work setting up Christmas decorations in the streets and the Christmas market.

Stay B&B L’incontro Residenza Medioevale.

Eat: Taverna Etrusca.

Excellent dinner of fabulous antipasto then pizza. Followed by house made gelati for me, and tiramisù for DC. We have a card that we carry to give to waiters detailing DC’s nut allergy written in Italian. The poor waiter looked very uncomfortable with the idea of DC having gelati; most of the flavours contain nuts and the waiter repeatedly refers to the risk of cross contamination. Poor DC – there was no way he was going change the waiter’s mind. Tiramisù is much better, the waiter advises. And apparently it was excellent.


Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 37: Bolsena to Montefiascone.

It is a sun shining mid-teens day.

Montefiascone is towards the more southern end of the lake, but much higher up. We decide to cut a few kms and some ups and downs off the days walking. It does mean more time on busier roads though. We turn 18 kms into a little over 14. We get into Montefiascone in the early arvo.

To avoid a large up and down, and threats of sheep dogs, we initially follow the via Cassia out of town for a few kms. We have to be alert to the traffic. I suspect this is the old route, now switched to hillside climbs and descents with less traffic and with likely better views.

When we rejoin the route we pass through beautiful forest in a reserve, with a creek with occasional cascades. Views towards the lake and lots more olive trees and vines follow after we leave the forest.

We pass a sign reporting Montefiascone is 100 kms from Roma – but i think that is the road distance. Pretty sure we have further to walk.

Another sign indicates an alternate route to the ups and downs of the current trail. It is shorter and more direct with a gentle climb towards the town. Again I think it is probably the former trail. It follows a road with reasonably regular traffic. There is a good shoulder and we comfortably keep out of the way of cars, usually going pretty fast, and not infrequently with the driver on the phone.

The route into the centre is a bit round-about as it takes you past the San Flaviano Romanesque church. Unfortunately we didn’t have a euro handy to switch on the lights to be able to better appreciate the carvings and frescoes. It is also the burial place of Giovanni Fugger, a pilgrim of old who reportedly died as a result of the outstanding wine of the town.

We have time for a bit of a rest then a wander, visiting the duomo (love the della Robbia) and the gardens of the fortress. Today is Monday and the fortress is closed but there is a lovely sunset view across the lake.

Then time to sit in a bar and play canasta. Richo wins again.

Stay: Hotel Urbano V

Dinner of lentil soup; plus steak and mushrooms for DC and baccalà ravioli for Richo, plus some of that wine (Est Est Est).

Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 36: Acquapendente to Bolsena.

A trail of two halves.

One of the most amazing things about doing this walk is the places we have visited, even if just briefly, that we never would have come across on the Italian Tourist trails via the train. Places such as the Val d’Aosta, Pavia, Pontremoli, Radicofani and now, Bolsena.

When we leave Acquapendente it doesn’t take long to reach the countryside. This first 11 kms is mostly weaving through farmland. Flat, easy walking.

Once we cross the centre of the town of San Lorenzo Nuova, the highest point of today, we can see Lake Bolsena. We pick up a couple of tasty pizza slices and sit at a lookout for our lunch.

From here the trail is substantially different as it skirts the hills surrounding the lake. Initially through some woods returning to rough track for the first time in a while. Pink/ mauve cyclamen are everywhere. But we aren’t in Tuscany any more, Toto. The markers are not frequent and trails go off in many directions. We use the SloWays app to keep us on trail.

Most of the rest of the way towards Bolsena we follow dirt road, repeatedly up and down, amongst olive trees, farms and a number of very appealing agriturismi. Olive harvest is complete and people are packing up the nets and pruning the trees.

I had no idea what was at Bolsena, apart from the lake. It is quite a surprise when we get our first glimpses.

An extraordinary medieval town with a large fortress. Once we reach the narrow streets and steep alleyways we need to descend towards the lake. Some young, teenage people virtually run down the steep paths. We creak our way down with added vocal sound effects.

Tonight I have a hotel booked by the lakefront. Enormous, beautiful, century old plane trees line the avenue from the medieval section down towards the lake. They were planted to encourage people from the town to venture to the lakeside. They certainly encourage me to follow them.

We go looking for gelati by the lakeside but it seems gelati mustn’t be a big seller in the cold weather, in off season. It is also a bit challenging to find a place for dinner but eventually we succeed back in the old town.

Stay: Hotel Royal

Eat: Salmon for Richo, risotto with seafood for DC.

A domani.

Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 35: Radicofani to Acquapendente.

We start early with a bit of a look around Radicofani, including up the road to the castle ruins and tower. Unfortunately we can’t access the tower area until 10.00 – a bit too late, but there are views all around.

We are really pleased to be able to access both Sant’ Agata and San Pietro to get a look at the beautiful della Robbia pieces. With our late arrival yesterday both were closed. Our weeks in Firenze a few years back turned me into a fan.

Just gorgeous!

After passing by the Medici fountain we are on our way at 10:00. The guide describes the early part of the walk today as “one of the wildest, most solitary stretches on the Via.” 9 kms of descent on a dirt road through farms with amazing views to the left and right and back towards Radicofani.  I think what they mean by solitary is we passed only 1 B&B and 1 Agriturismo.

It is again a peaceful walk – until the shooting starts very nearby. We walk today with pellegrini canadese and americana. They don’t seem at all concerned by the shooting; DC and I, however, abandon our thoughts of a little rest and snack at this point and get a move on. Something about a man in fatigues with a gun slung over his shoulder striding towards us…….

After we have dropped down about 500 ms altitude the path then continues in the valley until we reach the via Cassia. Another 5kms along paths close to the road and we arrive at Centeno.

From here the only path available is walking on the road, often with no shoulder for some protection. The guide says it is not safe to walk. We are happy to listen to these words of wisdom. It says to catch the bus, but that is still 90 minutes away, and we had had a previous no show bus situation. I contact the proprietor of our room for the night who provided a number of a private driver. A quick phone call and in no time at all we are all 4 pellegrini on our way past 9 kms of road in a mercedes! 20 euros well spent. The driver reports she has transported many pellegrini. In fact all i needed to say was that i was at Centeno and she understood and was on her way.

Today as we reached the via Cassia, we passed this sign.

Got a bit excited: less than 150 kms to go! Unfortunately the guide says we still have 165 kms to go, and that’s after our car ride.

Also of note today: we have now left Toscana and arrived in Lazio.

8 more days.

Stay and Eat: Ristorante il Borge.

A very friendly welcome and an excellent dinner.

Via Francigena Oct / Nov 2017. Day 34: Castiglione d’Orcia to Radicofani.

From one hill town with a tower to another.

That steep climb up yesterday is now a bit of a painful descent back to the trail. The first three kms back on the trail are downhill through woods. Views back to the castle and tower, lots of autumn leaves and a few deer to be seen. One of the most beautiful stretches we have had.

We then climb back up to a ridge which we follow for the next hour surrounded by ploughed fields with occasional farmhouses. It is really peaceful, except for when the jet fighters roar just overhead. That certainly caught our attention.

DC makes friends with a number of dogs here. First, three small dogs emerge almost silently from a field; just a jingle from their tags. They escort us for the next couple of kms along the ridge before abandoning us to chase a couple of deer. He is then befriended by another dog, a scruffy little brown dog. This dog then proceeds to lead, follow, walk alongside us for the next hour. It was undeterred. There isn’t a tag so we don’t know if it has a home but it ends up a long way from where it joined us when it disappears off into an agriturismo.

We descend again to the river and the via Cassia. This is the main road that has a lot of traffic, going fast. We will see a lot of it in the coming days. This section though has a path alongside the river. Several dry creek crossings and an easy crossing of the river itself, then the real climb begins. 8-9 kms of almost constant up towards Radicofani at 814 ms.

Overall, compared to home, we have seen very few sheep. Until today. There are lots in this region, including these guys:

This whole stage from San Quirico to Radicofani is more than 32 kms due to hostel location. We are glad we broke it up. We passed quite a few agriturismo today, although they generally looked closed up at the moment.

The temperature today was cool, forecast to 10-11 deg, but with the sun shining and very little/no shade for most of the day, it often felt a lot warmer. This must be hard if hot. We did pass a few water fountains and found picnic tables set up in four spots. Two of them with perfect timing for a morning break and lunch stop. Overall this is a long but extraordinarily scenic day.

We arrive in Radicofani 7.5 hours after rejoining the trail. Around 25 kms.

Stepz says I climbed the equivalent of 20 floors. Totally and completely ripped off!

The tower is perched further up the hill, above the town. It will have to wait.

Tonight we have an apartment, a cosy little studio.

Radicofani looks to have a very old setup, but appears so neat and almost new. I assume with this strategic position it would have been heavily bombarded and then rebuilt after the war?

Stay: Bianca House

Eat: La Grotta. Dinner of tuscan soup (lots of beans) and lasagna, and steak for DC.

9 more days to Roma.